Sean Bell Center In Danger Of Closing
A community center that was opened in honor of a man killed in a hail of police bullets on his wedding day is now in danger of closing. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report that explains why and also says what is being done to try to keep the door open.
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More than 150 children have enrolled in various programs at the Sean Elijah Bell Community Center since it opened in May of last year. But they may not be able to go there much longer as the center is running low on funds.
"I feel kind of sad because they are really helpful to us," said Marilyn Nandji, who attends the after-school program. "All of us."
Nandji says the program has helped her become a better student. The center also offers dance, art and GED prep classes for young people and adults. But the managing director says there isn't enough money to keep it going past the end of the year.
"Families come in and they use the services on a daily basis and they don't always contribute," said Anthony Anderson, the center's managing director. "We are asking the community now to help us keep this thing going."
William Bell and his wife founded the center on Sutphin Boulevard in memory of their son Sean. Sean Bell was shot and killed and two friends were wounded in 2006 when undercover cops suspected they had a gun and opened fire. No gun was ever found.
William Bell says some people believe they got a settlement from the city as a result of Sean's death and that's why they don't pay. Bell says it's not true.
"We didn't receive anything," he said. "That's for the kids. His two kids."
Without enough money to keep it running, the center has gone from seven to six days of operation and more cutbacks are expected. That has some Jamaica residents concerned.
"There are not a lot of places like this," said Laqueta Maxwell, a resident and volunteer. "This is why this place is so special because some people wouldn't dare to build a community center like this in this neighborhood."
"My son is gone so I'm trying to save other kids the best way I can," William Bell said. "You know, just trying to help the people make a community again."
City Councilman Ruben Wills said it's too late in the year to try to secure city funding for the center, so he's now trying to get private donations to help it survive. Councilman Leroy Comrie said he's also looking to see what he can do to help.